• Suicide baiting is a hate crime

    The former me technically died on Feb. 16, 2010 at 6:20 p.m. CST, alone, inside my galley kitchen, following what was already a stressful day back then.  I had phoned my son to share details of that morning’s blindside, my business partner’s abrupt announcement to terminate Chalkboard Antiques & Gifts, our decade-old madcap sideline start-up venture by five teacher-entrepreneurs, down now to just two.

    This was a door that had closed for me, and news I would never share with my late son, for the man answering my call would render all former adversity as insignificant as he irrevocably slammed the next.

    My son had committed suicide on Feb. 16, 2010 at 3:25 p.m. PST, by jumping six stories to his death off the Forever 21 building in Hallidie Plaza, San Francisco.  From the first stunned breath I took to each subsequent one — reeling in absolute shock from the medical examiner’s words — already I was surviving suicide.

    Second by extreme second, entrapped by the respiration process — poised on the the still point of no return that seemed decades long — I was already unwillingly rising up from the white hot ashes of my ancient self, becoming a reluctant alien, a misshapen phoenix staggering unevenly to where I am today, where even the most insipid complaint such as, “My day cannot get any worse!” can disproportionally hurt.  A day can always get worse.  It did for the person I had been that Mardi Gras Tuesday, 2010, in a different time zone in the same hour as my son’s death.

    Later that night, I would learn I was also surviving suicide baiting.  Dylan Gifford Yount had been culled.  Like a sick animal separated from living.  We did not go to bed that night.  The people in my house just disbanded.

    Today, I am distanced by more than 110,937,600 seconds from that seminal event, and I am angry.  In those ensuing seconds, I have become a suicide baiting prevention activist and advocate for society’s sorriest pariah – the intended targets of suicide baiting – the suicidally mentally disabled.

    Victims of suicide are persecuted because they are disabled, vulnerable and incapable of rational thought.  A suicide baiting is an aggravated harassment, predicated on a calculated intent to harm.  If it occurs in public and not on the Internet, it is conspicuous torture, a violence that is articulated through the startled crowd that the mentally disabled victim is not worthy of continuing life.  Encouraging the suicidal to go ahead and die is as vulgar as it is illegal.

    Indeed, no witnesses knew Dylan or tried to stop the horror.  Arguably, the most extraordinary detail was that the atrocity occurred under the indifferent eyes and idle hands of 24 San Francisco police officers who never intervened to stop the Darwinian culling.  That SFPD failure to protect my son compels me in the work I do now.  I want suicide baiting to be recognized as a hate crime.  It meets both stringent FBI requirements.

    First off, hate is not criminal by itself, and not all crimes are hate crime, but when crime is committed because of a victim’s real or perceived race, religion, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability, it bumps traditional crime into a new category.  Hate crime is bias-motivated crime, protected under the most inclusive human rights legislation ever passed by Congress, the Shepard Byrd Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2009.  This legislation reopened national dialogue about hate crime, tasked the FBI to track it, and aimed to prohibit victimization based on bias.  Clearly, Dylan was targeted because he was disabled.  No one at the crime scene tried to convince anyone else besides Dylan to “Jump!  Come on, you can dddooooo it!”

    Second, the offense must actually be a crime to be classified as a hate crime.  Someone can write in a blog “I hate suicide jumpers,” or post that statement on a highway-sized billboard in his or her yard and not be committing a crime.  But if someone encourages, advises, or aids in a particular suicide, he or she is committing a crime in almost every U.S. jurisdiction.  Encouraging suicide is regarded as manslaughter in 10 states, considered a felony in most others.  In the four states where aiding and advising suicide is legal, only physicians may assist in the deed.  In the state where Dylan died, encouraging suicide is a felony, and if suicide baiting is the malicious encouragement of suicide, then suicide baiting is illegal in California.

    It is often difficult to find hope in my new work.  A stand-out example, though, was the 2011 conviction of Minnesota suicide nurse William Melchert-Dinkel who ruthlessly encouraged the victims he met on the Internet to commit suicide.  Rice County Judge Thomas Neuville does not mince words in his strong 42-page ruling.  Not only did he characterize Melchert-Dinkel’s encouragement as “lethal advocacy” and “fighting words” unprotected by First Amendment speech rights, Judge Neuville found that the suicide advocate — who flagrantly bragged to the police he had done it for the “thrill of the chase” — had played a “direct and imminent role” in his victims’ decisions to kill themselves.

    Perhaps even more compelling was a fallout argument put forth by constitutional-law professor Raleigh Levin of St. Paul’s William Mitchell College.  She cited an “immediacy factor” as problematic in the case because Melchert-Dinkel’s victims did not “instantly kill themselves,” and she chillingly concluded, “You have to be advocating illegal activity and there has to be this nexus of activity.”

    “Nexus of activity” could serve as the essential statement of what happens in a suicide baiting — the causal link between predatory intent and resulting action.  It is what close-minded California Judge Maria-Elena James failed to understand when she refused to let us speak in Yount v City and County of San Francisco, our 28-month long bid for a federal trial.  In her woeful 13-page Document 54, she toadies to the SFPD to justify the police doing nothing more than protecting the crowd from Dylan’s falling body and not risking their substantial pensions.

    Reading her smug dismissal explains why society is disdainful of cops and courts, but her cynical rationalizations will hardly make the infliction of such blatant cruelty disappear.  Many of us think we are purchasing service and protection for ALL when we pay our taxes.  When judges try to tell us otherwise, it stokes our distrust and fuels civil disobedience.

      • Roo

      • August 26, 2013 at 9:51 am
      • Reply

      I am so sorry for your loss, and admire you so much for doing this.

      I remember reading Dylan’s story with disgust and a broken heart at what the crowd did that day, and thinking how it would add an extra layer of misery for the people who loved him.

      I wish you much strength and success in continuing your work.

    • Thank you, Roo. There are so many “layers” in the story as you said.

    • Kathie, I continue to support you in educating the public about suicide baiting. Advocate,Activist,Friend of the meek. You are truly a hero. I know you unwilling were placed here( no person in their right mind would choose this path). You are making a difference. Even if the judge does not see it as illegal, WE all know it’s immoral to cull someone into suicide. It clearly shows the powers that be ( this judge)are not for our best interest. Was she ELECTED? Hopefully she wont get re-elected. When the word gets out about James’ decision,no one would vote for that.

      The purple flowers were again in bloom on the front fence, this morning. Usually they bloom & are gone. This summer they appear regularly.
      I believe you have strengthened many people, that would now step up in a crowd & DO something about a baiting situation,not be just another face in the crowd.
      Bless you, much love, Liz

    • Many thanks, Liz. Unfortunately, she is appointed.

      • Patricia

      • September 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm
      • Reply

      I am so sorry for your loss. Many people are suffering from the tragic effects of war. An average of 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder perpetuates from the victims to their friends and family. I commend you on the work you do to stop the baiting. Unfortunately, most of the baiting is committed by young people who have yet to learn the value of every human life. Parents are failing to teach their children empathy. Bullying is now the focus in schools, yet every day more and more students are bullied. Our society has turned into a mean, vulgar, uncouth, and uncaring mass. Just read the papers about the elderly being beaten, raped, robbed, and murdered by young people too sorry to care that they are causing pain and suffering. Our country needs a major overhaul in teaching people how to parent and raise good, decent people. There is someone missing in our culture today. God.

      • michele

      • December 30, 2013 at 8:38 pm
      • Reply

      The “new world order” is deplorable. I am a disabled widow and I worry everyday someone will try to hurt me. In reality we live in, what I call, a world of disorder and quite honestly I have had all I can take. All the government cutbacks has caused many disabled and elderly to become homeless and our government is deaf and blind to what is happening.

    • Our trial is scheduled to begin August 25, 2014, in San Francisco’s Civic Center Courthouse with the Honorable Judge Cynthia Ming-mei Lee, presiding.

    • We were dismissed from Superior Court on July 23, 2014, only 32 days from the scheduled start date of our jury trial. We have taken our case to the First District Court of Appeals, San Francisco, a process that will most likely take anywhere from 12 to 18 months (August 2015 to February 2016)! We believe our cause to be just, and we are not giving up. We will never accept that police in America have no duty to enforce law (CA Oenal Code 401) or make arrests. When police are not held accountable for such misconduct, we ALL lose. If police can ignore a suicide baiting in progress, can they ignore a robbery next? A rape? What?

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